Submitted by Wayne Root on Sunday, February 26, 2017 at 1:00 PM
The last time we were together, I alerted you to the possibility of upsets in these final days of the college basketball regular season. Then, late Saturday night saw one of the biggest upsets EVER!
Number one and previously undefeated Gonzaga fell as a 20-point favorite to BYU. And, that’s after jumping ahead to an 18-2 lead out of the gate! A situation like that has a 99% win rate according to the computers. But, computers still don’t realize how quickly even the best sports teams can lose their focus.
Now…that loss may not end up meaning much in the big picture. Gonzaga is still well-positioned to earn one of four #1 seeds in the Big Dance. And, if they fall to a #2…there’s not that big a difference between being a #2 or a #1 in terms of the pathway you have to navigate. Perhaps it was a GOOD thing. Coaches don’t like to admit this. But, something that snaps a team out of complacency like that create new focus and intensity moving forward. Better to lose your regular season finale than in the first weekend of the Dance.
As a handicapper, these issues concerned me in terms of Gonzaga’s ability to play to its Dance seed.
*They really fell apart in crunch time. That’s evidence that “not being battle tested” could be a real issue once they face quality teams. After the first round of the NCAA’s, their opponents will be better than this BYU squad. And none of their games will be at home!
*They were too soft inside the arc defensively. The team has a strong defensive reputation. But, we don’t know how much of that is a result of their very soft schedule. BYU made half of its two-point shots.
*They were an awful 16 of 29 from the free throw line. Good luck making that work in playoff style basketball! Tough to protect leads in close games if you’re gagging from the free throw line.
*They turned the ball over 16 times in what should have been a walkover. This suggests that athletic opponents from better conferences will be able to pressure Gonzaga into mistakes.
It’s funny how a team like Gonzaga can be seen as a favorite in some circles, but a Cinderella in others. Frankly, they’re a big underdog to “run the table” next month no matter how highly they’re seeded. I might end up taking them here and there at value prices in March. I would be surprised if they were the team cutting down the nets on the first Monday night of April.
Thanks to all of you who signed up for service this past weekend. My PINNACLE play wasn’t quite as big an upset, but cashed easily. The Miami Hurricanes outlasted shorthanded Duke as I thought they would. Everything I talked about in my weekend article came into play there. Plus, I was helped by Duke being drained from that last-second loss at Syracuse! Miami was ready to make a statement and did.
Michigan also made a statement for me against Purdue as an Inner Circle play Saturday. Amazing how far off oddsmakers have been in the Big 10 in recent days. Handicappers must focus on how teams are playing NOW rather than a month ago. So many false favorites in the Big 10!
TCU just missed springing an upset for me as well Saturday…but did cover comfortably vs. West Virginia.
More great opportunities are coming up in this final week of the regular season. Maybe I’ll also step out in some of the mid-major tournaments that are about to get under way. Remember to focus on these keys when trying to find potential upsets…
*Lack of motivation for the favorite
*Huge motivation for the underdog
*The ability to score points for the underdog
*Personnel or fatigue developments that could hinder the favorite
Go through every game on the card with those four elements in mind. Motivation will largely disappear in the Big Dance next month because every game matters so much to both teams. Look for motivational mismatches this week where the market has placed too much weight on past results or perceptions of talent level. Hey, Gonzaga had a lot more talent than BYU, and better results than anyone else in the country! Didn’t matter this past Saturday night.
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Back with you later this week to talk more basketball. The sportsbooks here in Las Vegas are really starting to buzz with the postseason imminent. Gonzaga and the Big West will be here in town at the Orleans Arena for their tournament. The Pac 12 and Mountain West events will be here as well.
Are YOU ready for the biggest sports betting event of the calendar year? It’s time for you to go to W.A.R. alongside WAYNE ALLYN ROOT!